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Canada should screen all baby boomers for hepatitis C, experts argue

FILE PHOTO: In this Jan. 17, 2007 file photo, Richard Carreiro, a prisoner who is dying of Hepatitis C, receives treatment in the hospice at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Calif. Nearly everywhere around the world, people are living longer and fewer children are dying. But more and more the world is grappling with the diseases and disabilities of modern life, according to the most expansive global look so far at life expectancy and the biggest health threats nation by nation.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

A group of doctors says Canada should start screening all baby boomers for the potentially deadly liver disease hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is a major cause of cirrhosis of the liver and the most common reason for liver transplantation in North America.

People chronically infected with the blood-borne virus typically have no symptoms until they develop liver failure or cancer of the liver.

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But Toronto liver specialist Dr. Hemant Shah says that unlike most chronic viral infections, hepatitis C is curable.

The Canadian Liver Foundation recommends that people born from 1945 to 1975 be tested because that age group represents more than 75 per cent of those infected.

Canada now screens people based on risky behaviours such as IV drug use, but studies have shown this approach is not very effective.

Writing in Monday's Canadian Medical Association Journal, Shah and his co-authors argue that Canada should follow the lead of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which recently recommended that all baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C.

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